After rescuing Mister Miracle from a shark filled deathtrap and a swarm of hungry piranhas, Batman came face to face with another of these giant monsters responsible for his recent suffering. After feeding the beast to the piranhas, Batman came to the conclusion that only one man could be responsible for these creatures: Hugo Strange. The Dark Knight tracked the mad professor to the outskirts of Gotham and, without hesitation, destroyed his lab. Just two issues away from 1000 now. It’s time for the Dark Knight to get some answers. Or…
As Hugo Strange denies knowing anything about the monster attacks, Batman drags him across his wrecked lab to four containment pods filled with human-shaped creatures. Strange tells Batman that none of his creatures have left his lab and asks Batman to elaborate on what the monsters can do. When Batman tells him of all the creature’s abilities, Strange is astonished. “None of my creatures are as sophisticated as that. What you and your Bat-family destroyed recently is at the top of my capabilities.” Strange then asks if he can see Batman’s glove to get a sample of the creature’s DNA. Batman refuses but is interrupted by Alfred. The faithful butler calls to let Batman know that Jason Blood is reaching out for help. When Alfred patches Blood through, the occult expert is quickly cut off and the line goes dead. Batman then tells Alfred to have the plane drop the “HB Suit” to him, before knocking Hugo Strange out with a single strike to the jaw. He walks outside of the wreckage just in time for a pod to crash down in front of him. The pod opens to reveal the HellBat suit. Batman dawns his most powerful armor and flies to save Jason Blood.
He arrives to find Blood’s other half, the demon Etrigan, being attacked by a vicious green demon. Batman gives the demon one chance to release Etrigan, but when the monster refuses, Batman attacks. The two begin to battle while Etrigan is left in demonic restraints. After creating a little space, Batman attempts to free Etrigan, but is attacked by the demon again. In what should be an impossible feat, the demon begins tearing the HellBat armor apart before telling Batman, “We are brothers, you and I! Stronger together as allies! We both spread fear! Each in our own distinct ways! Fear is the answer!” As the suit informs Batman that his vital signs are dropping, he activates what he called the Devastator. The suit then seems to combine the powers of both Superman and Wonder Woman, giving Batman the edge he needed to end the fight. After being defeated, the demon was pulled back to Hell, and attempted to take Etrigan with him before Batman saved him. Once the demon is gone, Etrigan returned to the form of Jason Blood. He told Batman that “The creature that came after me tonight was a manifestation of the fear you yourself have created over the years.” As Batman scans the area, he finds one of his original grapple gun prototypes. Blood, while being a collector, has never purchased or acquired any of Batman’s old gear, meaning it was brought there by the demon for a reason. Batman then asks Blood if he can use his magic to teleport Batman to where he believes the next attack with be.
At S.T.A.R. Labs in Metropolis, Batman arrives in the office of Silas Stone, Cyborg’s father. However, there is nothing there at the moment trying to kill Silas. Batman fills him in on the situation, and Silas responds, “You’re here now because of the same reason you first paid me a visit all those years ago. You didn’t want to know just how to fight back- You wanted to be the best…You wanted to know how to wage war, and wage it well. You knew that to build a better Batman, you had to incorporate science with your fists. You needed to experience things that would otherwise be…impossible. What do you fear, hmm?” Silas then shoots the grapple gun at Batman. When the Dark Knight catches the line, the room around him begins to fade to binary code. Then Batman hears a voice saying, “Well, we always knew that to wear the cape and cowl…we’d have to wage war on ourselves, Bruce.” Batman turns and sees something unexplainable. In front of a computer showing images of all that has transpired since the first attack sits a childhood Bruce Wayne in a Batsuit.
Well this just got a lot more complicated, didn’t it? The road to 1000 just hit a major bump for Batman, as seen at the issue’s end. Is that actually a young Bruce Wayne in that computer chair? Or perhaps it’s just another trick made up by whoever is behind this plot against Batman. My question with this is, was any of this actually real? If you look behind the young Bruce, you can clearly see images of everything that has happened and everyone Batman has encountered so far on this journey. Has Batman been trapped in some sort of A.I. trap? Or did he fall into the trap once he set foot inside Silas Stone’s office? On a personal note though, it was awesome to see Etrigan again. As one of my favorite supernatural characters in all of DC, I don’t think Etrigan gets enough time in current books. This was a nice little change on the road to 1000. With the biggest issue of Detective Comics approaching faster and faster, the plot just twisted right in front of our eyes with issue 998. And with the preview of issue 1000 circulating around the internet showing literally every single Bat-Family member, this about to be bigger than we imagined. We’re almost there, people. Almost there.